One Year Ago: Dr. Dre Sues Napster, Students and Schools

Originally published on April 26, 2000 and brought to you today as a time capsule.

Andre Young, better known as multi-platinum rap star Dr. Dre, is suing Napster and several yet-to-be-named students and schools who allegedly used Napster’s MP3 music swapping software to infringe upon his copyrights.

The suit, filed by Dr. Dre and his Aftermath Entertainment label in a Los Angeles federal court, did not single out individuals, but indicated that the students, along with five universities, would be named later.

Dr. Dre is asking that the court shut down Napster’s service and award damages of US$100,000 for each instance of copyright infringement. Total damages could amount to $10 million, according to the lawsuit.

Won’t Stop

Dr. Dre filed suit only after Napster claimed that it can only deny access to people that are identified as copyright violators. Dr. Dre’s attorney, Howard King, reportedly called the company’s response “comical.”

Napster may be hoping that its terms of service (TOS) will be enough to protect it from judgment.

Napster’s TOS states, “Users are responsible for complying with all applicable federal and state laws applicable to such content, including copyright laws. As a condition to your use of the Napster service and browser you agree that you will not use the Napster service to infringe the intellectual property rights of others in any way.”

However, Napster’s TOS may not be enough, as a German court recently found AOL Germany responsible for the musical trades of its subscribers.

In Dre’s Corner

Backing Dr. Dre in his quest to slay Napster are some heavy hitters, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and members of the hard rock band Metallica.

The RIAA filed suit against Napster last December and Metallica took aim at the San Mateo, California-based company earlier this month.

In a statement, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich said, “We take our craft — whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork — very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is.”

Metallica’s suit also took on three universities — Indiana University, the University of Southern California (USC), and Yale University — accusing them of allowing piracy to flourish at their schools by failing to block Napster. Yale University and Indiana University responded by blocking students’ access to Napster.

Trojan Response

USC announced that it would allow students to access Napster “only for demonstrably legal purposes from designated university personal computers and under university supervision.” Metallica responded by dropping the suits against the schools.

Napster has also been reproached by Students Against University Censorship (SAUC), which said it would no longer support the company’s software for “knowingly facilitating the transmission of copyrighted material.”

Backing Napster

Napster claims to care passionately about music. In a statement, company chief executive officer Eileen Richardson said, “It has never been Napster’s intention to belittle the importance of an artistic production, and we are very passionate about helping bands understand the value of what we offer. Nevertheless, technological advances over the last several years are restructuring the entertainment business.”

Napster has found at least a few fans in the musical community. Hard rock band Limp Bizkit is allowing Napster to front $1.8 million for the band’s free summer concert tour, “Back to the Basics,” which will kick off on July 4th.

Fred Durst, lead singer of Limp Bizkit, said, “We believe that the Internet and Napster should not be ignored by the music industry as tools to promote awareness for bands and market music.”

Napster can also count among its fans the hacker that broke into Metallica’s Web site last week and left the message “LEAVE NAPSTER ALONE.”

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